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Metro: Beyond
Rusalka Voronov

Death and Marriage

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The wedding hadn't been much to write home about. The offer had been there, of course: She could have an extravagant dress, if she asked for it. As large a bridal party as she requested. Glowing, handmade fake flowers, better than the real thing had been, if she wanted.

But Rusalka turned it all down. It was silly to waste Party resources on... well... a party. And she'd never felt at home in complex dresses. And having a big gaggle of bridesmaids she didn't even know sounded an awful lot like socializing, which she'd never been very good at (which was why she had no close friends to serve as maids in the first place). She was more than a little uncomfortable with having all these decisions levied at her, anyway. It seemed like the first time she'd been asked her opinion on getting married was making these aesthetic choices.

So it was simple, with her side mostly made up of her father's friends, important dignitaries, that sort of thing. The usual. And Rusalka was nervous about the whole affair, but her groom had never been anything but gentlemanly to her, and her parents were quite sure he'd be a fine husband for her. That he'd take good care of her.

It was all very straightforward.

The weeks following the wedding, however. Now those had been a lot. If you could call explosions and gunfire fanfare, then fanfare was abundant.

She started off mostly disinterested in the small bit of political dissent that had been giving her father a headache for weeks - she was a married woman, now, and had an embarrassment of wedding gifts to write thank you cards for, and a new apartment to organize, and a husband to, well, get to know at all beyond the light surface pleasentries. If she got done with all of that, all she wanted to do was read her books.

But the minor political headache turned into a serious affair before Rusalka had time to blink. Then there was a threat on her father's life. And then all correspondence from her family stopped cold as the news came of the government falling.

Rusalka found herself that morning standing by a window, looking down on the dark road below where people were swarming the street. Angry people, though she still wasn't fully sure what had upset them enough to turn to murder. 

She hugged her arms to her chest, worried sick, unsure if her family was safe or not, glancing at the door every few seconds to see if her husband had returned home yet.

@Dragon

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For a little while after the wedding, everything seemed to be looking up. Despite her origins, Anatoly had been pleasantly surprised to find his bride was a frugal one. At least, she had been in regard to the ceremony. Some part of him reckoned that could have been due to the circumstance of being married off to a complete stranger; but all in all, the marriage was an end to a means, and Antotoly wasn't particularly keen on dissecting the inner workings of the female mind. 

The break in the storm had been unfortunately short lived. Murmurs of trouble had long been boiling beneath the surface within the Red Line stations. Shortly after the wedding, tensions had begun reaching the break point. Perhaps the party leadership should have sensed the danger lurking sooner than they had. Everyone always thought there was more time. 

As was often the case in the course of human events, slow burning tensions abruptly erupted into a fireball of chaos. Riots broke out in one station, and for all their efforts to stamp it out the rumors spread through the rest. More upheaval followed. 

Antatoly was soon consumed by his work as an officer, struggling to keep a lid on the troubles. But things were growing too far out of hand. Communication between stations was being lost. Even his in-laws had gone silent in the midst of it all. Whether they were in hiding or had come to the worst remained uncertain. That loss of contact was only one of many troubles. 

As he carefully made his way through the cramped station his weapon was in hand, albeit hidden beneath his coat. Unrest had grown to the extent that he'd turned his coat inside out to hide the insignias designating his rank. With even loyal soldiers beginning to desert, there was no manpower to expend on personal guards. Even Anatoly himself was beginning to debate the wisdom of staying, that perhaps it was due time to take his bride away from this place before it was too late. 

It was a strange turn of events to find himself skulking through the terminal like some kind of cat avoiding vicious dogs. Fortunately, he made it back to the apartment without any significant incident. He entered carefully, trying to make sure no one noticed as he entered the cramped building and made the climb to let himself into the small flat he now shared with a near stranger. There had been little time to acclimate to one another. 

"You should come away from the window," Anatoly murmured as he shrugged off his coat by the door. 

@WisePenny

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Rusalka was so lost in her own thoughts that she jumped when the door opened. Her head whipped around, a net of very long blonde hair following the movement like a veil. Obviously, it was only her husband. After all, who else would it be? But the jumpy anxiety remained.

She wasn't sure who else she would have been expecting. A rioter from one of the other stations, or maybe from this one, charging in to attack her? Maybe a member of her own family, alive after all and seeking shelter?

Her mother had insisted that it was fine and normal and even healthy for Rusalka to move from her home station, the only one she had ever known, to live with Anatoly in his station. They were close enough, she'd said, it was easy to travel from one to the next, they'd visit each other often.

She'd said goodbye to them after they'd helped the new couple move, and that was the last she'd seen of them. The anxiety of not having heart from them in days was gnawing at her. There were bags under her eyes and her fingernails were chewed worse than usual.

With one last glance outside, Rusalka did as her husband suggested and stepped further inside, away from the line of sight of anyone on the street below. "You were gone all night," she said, looking at him. Working all night? He looked as exhausted as she felt. "How are..." she hesitated. She knew a lot of political theory, and very little of political practice, to say even less of military matters, "How are things?"

@Dragon

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"I couldn't get away," Anatoly answered, giving a single shake of his head, and offering no further explanation. It would have been long winded, dreary news. News that would do nothing to ease the visibly agitated young woman. 

He stepped further into the small flat, moving to seat himself and taking a moment to breathe out and relax before he answered her hesitant question. 

"Holding, for now," he finally said quietly. The walls were thin. It wasn't a conversation to allow eaves droppers to hear, "That won't last much longer, if something doesn't change... And I am becoming afraid that the party has waited until too late," he admitted tiredly, leaning into his hand and massaging the bridge of his nose. 

@WisePenny

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Rusalka wasn't sure what a normal level of communication between a couple was supposed to be. Her parents, if they got to talking about in depth matters, certainly never did so in front of her. Maybe it simply wasn't a thing people did? She bit down on the inside of her cheek, worrying at the skin, a nervous habit.

"Are you hungry?" she asked. She realized she had no idea what his schedule was, if he ate at work... any of it. "There's coffee." Mushroom coffee, but it perked you up just the same. She'd never had the namesake.

Their apartment was a nice one for the Red Line, but like all buildings in the Metro it was built mainly of scavenged materials and repurposed components of the old Metro. It wasn't exactly the picture of security. Not that Rusalka was thinking of that just then. She more assumed he was trying not to worry her.

"What's next, if this doesn't last?"

@Dragon

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"Just coffee is fine," Anatoly answered quietly. He could wait to eat. With the unrest on the streets, he preferred not to have the stove stoked above more than a smolder. The smoke was an indicator of residents being present; and given this apartment block was mostly inhabited by officers and other important figures, it was a target for angry citizens. For the time being, he felt it safer not to draw that kind of attention. 

He rubbed the bridge of his nose a while longer, both as a form of stress relief and to rouse himself. He was exhausted. 

The question was answered by a stretch of contemplative silence before Anatoly reluctantly answered, "I'm not entirely certain," he admitted, "but if there's no word from your father soon we may well have to flee the Red Line," he murmured the treasonous possibility so lowly that even Rusalka likely struggled to hear it. The current state of affairs was so hazardous that he didn't dare let any of his fellows catch wind that he was considering it - even if the majority of officers were likely contemplating similar moves. He was no spring chicken, having been military before the Final War (false moniker though it had proven to be). Party leadership were looking for scapegoats. Anatoly had no intention of becoming one. Certainly not now that he was responsible for a wife, however alien and strange their union remained. 

@WisePenny

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She nodded and went to the small galley style kitchen to pour from the large metal coffee pot (one of their wedding gifts from some official or another) into a glass. It was still hot and fairly fresh, and she brought the pot along with the poured glass to the table for her husband.

She still wasn't used to this, but at least it felt like what she was supposed to be doing?

The mention of her father, and his lack of communication of late, made her bite down even harder on her cheek. "...How soon is soon?" she asked. And then, in spite of herself, in spite of how much the answer scared her, she said, "Why do you think he hasn't called?"

@Dragon

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"Could be days. Could be weeks. I think we've approached the point to be ready for anything," he answered, pausing to reach for the steaming glass she had left beside him. Anatoly took a sip, exhaling slowly as he set the cup down again, "I think perhaps he hasn't answered is that they may have been forced to move on already. There's no reason to assume the worst. We still hear about the dead, and your family aren't among them." 

Only the important dead, of course. 

Anatoly sighed, standing briefly to go to the lone window and drag the curtains fully over it, "In the morning I'll help you pack away what's most important. If it comes down to it, we can only take what we can carry on our backs. Think carefully about what you need to bring. The packs will need to be left at the ready." 

@WisePenny

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This was a lot of uncertainty. Rusalka wasn't a big fan of uncertainty. It... misbalanced her, left her feeling anxious. Well, more anxious, in this case. She was a little shocked that he'd actually said the word dead. That. That was supposed to be. Unspoken. Wasn't it?

She looked visibly nervous, and the expression ramped all the way up to shock when Anatoly went on about what might be next on their list.

"Wait, what?" she blinked owlishly. "On our backs? Where would we be going?" She was laughably unprepared for a situation of this caliber.

@Dragon

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"Hanza, most probably," he answered, readily enough to make it clear this wasn't the first thought he was putting into the matter. It had been weighing on his mind for a while now. Anatoly knew that his own position, and that of her family, left them at high risk if conditions continued to deteriorate. 

He sipped at the mug. He'd never grown to like this stuff. It wasn't even an acquired taste. More a habit that had grown over time, "They have little concern for the political strife the Red Line has been involved with. They prefer to profiteer from it. I believe between my own skill sets and the information I could provide, that we could find a home there." 

@WisePenny

 

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"Hanza?" Rusalka repeated, looking stricken. "But- they aren't-" There was a lot of flowery words she could say about the intense capitalism that ran directly counter to everything the Red Line stood for, but she was too shocked to try.

She placed a hand on the kitchen table. She was not quite so much of a delicate flower as to faint at the news, but the prospect of leaving had never once occurred to her, and she didn't know what to do with the caviler attitude Anatoly had for it. "Information you could provide. You're not- you're not seriously suggesting you'd betray the People to Hanza?"

@Dragon

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"Not that kind of information," Anatoly muttered rather irritably in return, "trust my word - if Hanza had any designations on the Red Line, we'd be over run already. We barely have the manpower left to quell unrest among our own. If an aggressor hit us now the stand off wouldn't last twenty four hours. It's a god damn wonder the Reich haven't marched on us yet." 

He could only assume that was because the rumors of a recent mass death event in the Reich were at least somewhat true. 

@Morrigan

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She frowned at him. If not that kind, what other kind of information was there? Or at least, what else would Hanza want?

"My father always said they were just as bad as the Reich. All the same ideals, deep down, only less organized about it." But that made sense. Her father always had been a hard line party member, and wish as little wiggle room as he gave himself, it wasn't a surprise that his daughter was just as stiff about it. "And you just want to, what? Walk over and knock on the door?"

@Dragon

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Rusalka drew back, mouth pressing shut. Was this their first fight? She heard all couples did that, but much like hard discussions, her parents had never done anything of the sort in front of her. It was certainly the first time either of them had been anyhing other than coolly polite.

She gave him a wary look, turned, and walked back to the window, drawing back the curtains to peer outside again, making it clear that the reality of how dangerous their lives were close to becoming had not yet sunk in for her.

@Dragon

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